Positive discipline is key to raising happy and functional children. Children need firm, clearly established boundaries or they will grow up insecure, world weary, or worse, experiment with destructive behaviour.
In author and psychologist Vanessa Lapointe’s book Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up, she writes that parents are so focused on their child’s behaviour, they forget to question what’s causing them to act that way.
Dr Lapointe argues that the world needs more understanding and compassionate parents who nurture healthy emotional parent-child relationships. To create a safe space filled with unconditional love for him to thrive in, here are six ways to keep your cutie in check while staying connected.
“Every tantrum is a huge learning opportunity, so empower your child and let him know it’s okay to feel that way, but there are solutions.”
Find out what sparked the behaviour. Junior may have wanted to watch another episode of Paw Patrol, but you switched off the TV as it dinner time. Acknowledge he might find this unfair and give him a chance to let off steam. “This will shorten the level of the tantrum,” points out Cornelia Dahinten, family coach and director of The Parent You Want to Be ― Conscious Parenting Training and Playgroups, which organises parenting workshops and talks. “Every tantrum is a huge learning opportunity, so empower your child and let him know it’s okay to feel that way, but there are solutions.” Once you’ve done this, move on and shift the focus.
2. Redirect/offer another choice
After he vents his emotions, give him an alternative solution. If your mini-me wants to play with his water-table toy in the garden but it’s raining, offer some other tactile activity such as making Play Doh figurines. “Through this, you also teach him to improvise when life doesn’t go their way,” Dahinten explains.
3. Focus on the behaviour you like
Make sure to shine a light on your sweetie’s positive points ― don’t put negative labels on your child as he isn’t defined by his behaviour. Hearing words like “difficult” or “out of control” can impact your munchkin’s self-esteem negatively and he may end up acting that way.
Praise his hard work and effort during the football match even if he didn’t win the game. Say specific things like, “I was impressed with how you dribbled the ball and passed it so smoothly to your team mate. You’re a great team player!”
4. Give outcomes that teach
Instil in your child that mistakes are opportunities to learn and making a bad decision doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. So that he learns, make sure the “punishment” fits the “crime”. If junior hits his sibling, it doesn’t make sense to deny him dessert as this won’t teach him how to act when his sibling annoys him. What will work better is talking to him about ways to handle his frustrations and suggest that he write his sibling an apology note or card.
Instil in your child that mistakes are opportunities to learn.
Stick to your guns. If you are inconsistent with the rules you’ve put in place, then your child will likely use “testing the limit and boundaries” behaviour to find out when these dos and dont’s apply. If bedtime is at 8pm, maintain that, even when it’s the weekend. Always stand by your word when you discipline your tot. When you threaten to withdraw a privilege, such as iPad time, make sure to carry it out if junior continues to misbehave.
6. Be open to changing the rules
A snack following an afternoon nap may seem like a good idea, but when it starts to affect your tyke’s appetite for dinner, it’s time for a rethink. Expect lots of protests and tears initially, and acknowledge how your tot is feeling. Explain briefly why the rule had to be changed and let him voice his opinion if he’s old enough, Dahinten suggests. Take this into consideration and tell him how much you value his input, but you have to make the final decision. Junior may cry, complain and throw a fit, but it teaches him to respect authority.
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